Gray content with Warrenpoint's improving hand
Danske Bank Premiership: Warrenpoint Town v Coleraine (today, Milltown, 3pm)
WARRENPOINT Town manager Barry Gray believes that his ever-strengthening squad are becoming more optimistic that they can avoid relegation this season.
When Gray took over from Stephen McDonnell back in October they had collected just three points from their first 12 games. They welcome Coleraine to Milltown today knowing that if results go their way across the division they could leapfrog Institute and get within two points of Dungannon Swifts.
When he returned to the position, Gray said that he aimed to be within striking distance in January when he could actively add to the squad, and that's exactly where they are.
“We're obviously quite happy with where we sit at the moment,” said Gray. “It has given us a chance in January now, something I suppose we didn't have a couple of months ago.
“We have recorded 10 points from nine or 10 games and given what we were looking at when we first came in, that's a considerable return.
“There's a point in it between us and Institute and five in it between us and Dungannon. Not only is there an opportunity to get off bottom spot there is also light emerging in terms of getting out of the bottom two completely.
“It's still a big, massive ask, don't get me wrong, but it's an opportunity that wasn't there before.”
Warrenpoint's busy January continued yesterday as striker Adam Carroll joined on loan from Linfield. Colm Deasy, Ryan Swan, Stuart Hutchinson and Kealan Dillon were also signed earlier this month.
“I said when we took over that there wasn't much squad depth and we were going to need to take some players in,” Gray continued.
“You'd do quite well to take two players in during January but we needed five or six and that brings its own challenges.
“We're delighted with what we've done, players have come in and our priority was to build up our attacking options.
“Adam is a younger player compared to some of the others we have brought in but he is another option.”
Gray knows that his side could have been in an even better position only to be on the wrong side of a controversial decision in their 2-1 loss to Glentoran last time out.
They led 1-0 at the Oval with 17 minutes remaining when goalkeeper Mark Byrne was dismissed. The hosts made great use of their numerical advantage to strike twice and take all three points.
The red card has since been rescinded by the Irish FA Disciplinary Committee but rather than stew on it, Gray opted to praise referee Jamie Robinson for admitting that he got it wrong.
“It was a turning point in the game, there is no doubt about it but we have to be very happy about the fact that they reviewed it and understood that there was an error.
“We are quick to chastise referees but he made an error and we have to give him credit for holding his hands up. We have to give credit to the association as well and everyone involved in reviewing it.”
Irish League stats
(All games 3pm)
Ballymena United v Glenavon
THESE two sides are currently languishing in mid-table and both are looking for a spark to kick-start their season. The visitors have lost Stephen Murray to Portadown this week, the fourth player to exit in January after Rhys Marshall, Caolon Marron and Andrew Mitchell.
Odds: H: 11/10 D: 13/5 A: 15/8
Verdict: Ballymena United
Carrick Rangers v Cliftonville
CLIFTONVILLE are searching for an instant response to their 2-1 home loss to Linfield on Monday night. Niall Currie's Carrick will have their own point to prove after a 4-0 loss to Larne last time out. Former Reds striker Darren Murray could come up against his old side having joined Carrick on loan from Glentoran yesterday.
Odds: H: 9/2 D: 16/5 A: 1/2
Crusaders v Larne
CRUSADERS have strung together three victories on the trot as they attempt to get back into the Gibson Cup picture. They are only three points off leaders Linfield although they have played two games more. Both previous meetings between these two this season have ended all square but Crusaders should make home advantage count.
Odds: H: 8/11 D: 13/5 A: 3/1
Institute v Glentoran
GLENTORAN temporarily moved top of the table last Friday despite being far from their best in the 2-1 win over Warrenpoint Town. Mick McDermott has signed striker Andrew Mitchell and defender Caolan Marron as they continue their title push. Institute haven't won in their last seven league games and that should stretch to eight this afternoon.
Odds: H: 8/1 D: 4/1 A: 1/4
Linfield v Dungannon Swifts
LINFIELD came away from a blustery Solitude with a superb 2-1 win over Cliftonville on Monday night and suddenly they look in a good position once again. They may only lead the Reds and Glentoran on goal difference, but they have a game in hand on both of them. Dungannon continue to slide towards the wrong end of the table.
Odds: H: 1/14 D: 7/1 A: 14/1
Warrenpoint Town v Coleraine
WARRENPOINT goalkeeper Mark Byrne is free to play after having his red card from last week's loss to Glentoran rescinded. Coleraine lost to Crusaders last time out and Oran Kearney's side can't afford to lose any more ground on the leading pack.
Odds: H: 13/2 D: 4/1 A: 3/10